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Festival of Gaints, Douai, France

Festival of Gaints, Douai

Across Europe, you find festivals with historical roots that run so deep they seem to twine around a medieval mindset that feels a little out of place within the modern context of the contemporary European Union. As these carnivals go, the Festival of Giants is one of the most spectacular and visually grand. It evokes a Europe long gone, with origins that can be traced to a 9th-century military engagement. It includes crafts and artisan guilds and family ties that determine the manipulation of the giants at the heart of the celebration.

The city of Douai, near the shores of the North Sea, is the magnificent setting for an event that references many European cross-cultural currents. This is an area that has long been an interchange between the merchant guilds and barons of commerce who helped drive Europe from the Dark Ages into the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration.